The Spider Cliff Mysteries

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Words out of rust (Poetry? Poetry!)

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Posted by Radek, 6:08am, 7 Mar, 2011

"- and you really should've said something like 'Time's up!'. The way his head sunk just as the minute hand ticked was art, was that on purpose... Wait - you aren't a wizard?.. Whew, that's actually a bit of a relief. I'd always somewhat assumed ya were, and my complete lack of magickal talent'd open a horrible rift of distrust between us! i know what some signs and incantations look like from my travels with the professor, but, can't use any of them, of course..."

Radek, who has been enjoying their (forced) entry into the pub almost as much as their mile-a-minute conversation with fellow professional breaker of rationality and formality, Alice, nevertheless can spot a cue to pay attention. He shoots his slightly sleep-deprived grey eyes behind them as Alice guides them towards the bar proper, swearing that he could hear, or perhaps even see the faintest of footsteps on the path they'd taken... But it must have been his imagination.

Taking in the atmosphere in the room is something else entirely - having become somewhat seasoned in various pubs, although it's certainly not the sort of place you'd go for a classy party, the relative quiet is nice, and the ensorcelled lighting, which includes several blue 'chandeliers' made of what appear to be faint blue butterflies lends a sort of nostalgic charm. The piano is a nice touch, and Radek wonders for a few minutes if Alice could conjure up a tune on the mismatched keys -
Or perhaps simply smash them around a bit, either would be fine.

Smiling faintly to himself, he give Alice a confident pat on the back, whispering into her ear as she steers herself towards the bar. "Don't worry! Ya look like a grande sorceress, able to turn any of this crowd into something that we could feed to the lizard that seems to have taken a ride in your pocket. Sure, it might not help too much given what we've heard about the sort of wizards who keep port around here, but..." Giving her a thumbs up and a wink, Radek sidles over to the table Alice recommends, confident in her ability to - somehow - shut the thin wizard up.

The table itself is nicely seated by the exit - and although not terribly clean, has the minimum amount of maintenance to stop the occasional tenured wizard from condemning the place in a sharply-worded review; ah, a powerful sort of curse indeed... Radek idly watches the pool players - billardiers? Snookerers? - wondering what it is the midlevel conjurers are so worked up about; it certainly looks like they were both cheating.

Is that fair, in a way? What a strange train of thought... And stranger still, as his eyes scan the room, looking for anything that could be a threat, is the barmaid who has managed to materialize next to the table, despite her heft moving like a highly skilled ninja. His eyes narrow for a moment - there's no way it could, given what had happened after that incident... Face splitting into a grin (and hoping he isn't making a huge mistake), Radek tips his hat, exposing wavy carrot-flavored hair that seems to have turned into a wedge in the desert heat, making him look like nothing so much as a giant snack for rabbits.

"Hello, Hildebrand - seems like Alice's ability to gather us together has only gotten sharper... Any chance you'd have some black rose tea on your person?"

~As the gunman grins, possibly committing a grave error in introduction to the still stoic barmaid, three figures of indeterminate gender, average height, nondescript build and vague agelessness. Their features, despite having an aura of similarity, are obscured by the hand-sewn business suits and fancy hats they wear, each one a different shade of gray. Walking up the snooker table, they proceed to trounce the dueling wizards so badly that the former rivals are forced to work together against these newcomers - who play averagely, at best - but with a peculiar detached ferocity.

Bianca watches this all from Alice's pocket, while trying desperately to clamber over the thin wizard's shoulder and onto the counter. Of course, the whole room smells of stale sorcery and unpleasant, anti-lizard magick, not the least bit like Horatio - but behind the counter, Bianca's keen sense of smell can definitely detect something nice... Although her little lizard legs can't help her to do more than scramble around the prison-like pocket.~
This message was last edited on 7 Mar 2011.

A Most Peculiar Show~

Posted by Alice belladora, 4:49pm, 9 Mar, 2011

As Alice engages in a lively fight with the loquacious wizard, shouting her order at the perpetually ennui stricken barman who looks as if he's seen it all a hundred times before, the barmaid pulls a pencil from behind her ear and gives Radek a long, hard stare.

"Hildebrand? Howdya' know about her? Aven't seen er fer' about ten years. I ain't Hildebrand. Me name's Gunhilda, an' don't you forget it. You look like yer' up to no good, if yer' ask me. Are you gonna order, or are ya just gonna sit there grinnin' like a cheshire cat?" -She pulls a dog-eared notepad from her apron and poises her pencil over it- I ain't got all day, ya know. Got customers to serve. Been up since three forty-five, an' I've got another five hours workin' before I'm done."

As this sentence is delivered, Alice find herself victorious, the highly verbal wizard now longer capable of being verbal at all, and makes her way back to the table, carrying two large glasses of mysteriously smoking green liquid. Her expression is deeply triumphant. This does not, however, last for too long before it is replaced by utter shock at the sight of a familiarly huge figure, causing her to crash into a nearby potted plant.
The barmaid continues to stare challengingly at the gunman, until Alice's slightly deflated and soil-covered arrival causes her to look up in surprise.

~Over at the snooker table, the defeated forms of the two wizards slump against the green baize, having been thoroughly thrashed despite their combined efforts. Behind the bar, the passive barman quietly loads up his shotgun, sliding the shot into the barrel with a kind of detached expertise.
In the cellar, several hundred rats flee their homes, and many more spiders do likewise.
The ancient pianist proceeds to pack his bags and leave, or rather throw a pile of sheet music into a sack and leg it out the nearest exit.

In the back room, the landlord, a perpetually drunken man with a face the colour of a post box finds himself being comprehensively searched by a constable, although this has nothing much to do with any of the other things previously described.~

Bianca, having given up her efforts to escape, buries herself sulkily in a silk handkerchief. She can sense... something. Although, the pleasant smell is still there, and she has to fight an urge to leap out in search of it.
By this time, the barmaid's jaw has reached her chest, and she stares at Alice like she's never seen a top hat before. Alice stares at the table, apparently fascinated by the small pile of cigarette butts.
The silence drags on. Then begins to slow. And, finally, stops altogether, hanging in the air like a sluggish cloud.
After what seems like an eternity, the barmaid clears her throat, and says in a rather weak voice: "I... I didn't think I'd be seein' you again. Specially' not round these parts, and specially' since that incident a few years back with me an' Hildebrand"-

Or, rather, she begins to speak, but gets cut off as the lights suddenly dim, causing her face, and everything else, to fall into shadow.
At the other side of the room, a curtain that definitely wasn't there before slowly opens, revealing an empty stage with only a small spotlight to illuminate it.
Then, without warning, there is a flash of light, a mild scent of burning sulphur, and a small man dressed rather impeccably standing in the yellow glow.
He coughs, and pauses a few moments before speaking, as if waiting for an invisible audience to stop clapping.

"Ladies and gentlemen. Welcome. We do hope you enjoy our little show, for we have worked hard for many weeks in preparation. Our dancers danced until their feet bled, and our costumiers pricked their fingers many hundreds of times..."

This message was last edited on 9 Mar 2011.

Posted by Radek, 8:20pm, 9 Mar, 2011

The air in the room is awkward. The pervasive scent of sulphur is soon enhanced by a wave of dust blown forth from the stage as if some invisible fan is hurling it forward. Radek, whose grin had slowly inverted into an expression like a negative mirror image, uncertain and hurt. His mouth opens and shuts several times, perhaps too embarrassed to say much. When Alice had come back, some of the color returns to his face- but that too dims as Alice's appearance causes Gunhilda to speak in such a hesitant way that the tense atmosphere only thickens like a noose.

But as those recollections rush through his head the scent of sulphur admixed with something almost unpleasantly sweet - honey, perhaps? - fill the nostrils of all those patrons who have not yet left; one of the slumped wizards manages to rouse himself, but the three figures are... Expressionless, of course. And the bartender seems frozen, as if he's waiting for some moment to snap.

Radek's eyes flicker from Hil- Gunhilda's weather-worn face to Alice, trying to make sense of things and overcome the block in his throat - but then, the play starts.

A terrible grating organ tune begins to emanate from the stage, the speaker having disappeared behind the screen, although a hint of his strangely well-dressed self remains. Several dancers, looking terribly deprived of sleep, their stage make-up smudged and running, dash onto the stage - some costumed as flowers, or trees, or small animals. They perform a half-hearted dance as the organ music swells.

"Alice... Ah, so this is... I..."

The words freeze in his throat.

New characters, perhaps the focus of the story, bound onto the stage - perhaps this is some incredibly artistic new production, as the new characters seem to be portrayed entirely by puppets. A hunter, dressed entirely in green with a jaunty hat and a quiver stiltily kneels down to the ground, where a tiny puppet of a rabbit is looking past the stage into the audience. One of the wizard's laughs, although his eyes appear somewhat glazed over.

"... We've never met, i, i suppose. Several years back... Alice... What on earth happened..?"

His desperate attempts to remember fall flat as a million possibilities jostle around inside his head, each more unpleasant than the last. When he and Alice... And Hildebrand and Eckstein... Were in that town, had... something happened? Or what if this was long ago, something that he didn't know about? It-

It didn't matter. Right now, all he wanted to do was help Alice leave this place.

Back on the stage, the puppet rabbit has began to hop towards two of the dancers, who pirouette to reveal a poorly-painted forest backdrop. The hunter puppet slaps at his waist in surprise, as someone - the announcer? - talks from offstage. "Though I know not who you are, little rabbit, I shall follow you deeply into this dark forest, for tis' true that is my purpose; would that you take me to the goblin market, where my love has disappeared!" The rabbit says nothing, but turns one red-glass eye from the audience to the hunter - the two swivel off-stage as the dancers bow and the curtains close, the ruffling of props signaling that the scene is changing. In the interim, the organ music begins to play once more.

"Gunhilda... i'm sorry if this is as much as shock for you as it is for Alice; i'm sorry for whatever accident fell between you. Perhaps, ah, we should all have a seat?"

His voice trails off again as the three stranger move soundlessly towards the back of the stage...

~Bianca has ceased moving entirely in Alice's pocket, certain through some reptilian sense that this place will soon be the safest in the entire bar. Although slightly poignant for Horatio, she seems unworried by the atmosphere around her. The handkerchief feels nice, and this person feels trustworthy - the lizard does wish that the terribly off-key stage music would stop, however. Even lizard's can get headaches, after all.~

This message was last edited on 9 Mar 2011.

Posted by Alice belladora, 7:48pm, 11 Mar, 2011

As the barmaid sits down rather heavily on the chair opposite Alice, its legs bending outwards under the strain, Horatius finds himself in a bit of a pickle.
Or, to be precise, he finds himself being dumped from a great hight into a large amount of brightly coloured tulips, which soon become brightly flattened tulips. After a few moments of motionlessness, he slowly sits up, his eyes somewhat unfocused. His mind is, clearly, elsewhere. Perhaps dancing across the land of the magical pink lobster people. Traveling across several continents in the blink of an eye can do that to you. A fact that Horatius is well aware of. Though, of course, not right at this instant.

Back at the bar, Alice gives Gunhilda a small smile, which is returned with a rather hesitant one.
Knowing hesitancy of any kind to be an unusual occurrence in the barmaid, she looks around the room for a topic of conversation. This comes in the form of a heavily armed bartender. He has seemingly materialized out of nowhere, and stands before the trio with a blank expression, which nevertheless manages to convey both weariness and annoyance.

Gunhilda seems to rouse herself from her memory-induced trance, and sets about removing the chair, which has become firmly attached to her hindquarters.
She exchanges a meaningful glance with the barman, and busies herself with looking busy, although she does find time to shoot Alice a look which says "We'll talk later."
Alice says nothing, although nothing seems to be required.

Over at the stage, the play is in full swing, and the rabbit is singing a ballad, although not particularly well, to a young maiden type wearing a suitably soppy expression and not much else.
The hunter watches the proceedings from the bushes. He seems to be rather upset, and soon leaps theatrically into action, drawing his sword and brandishing it at the rabbit. The maiden squeals loudly.
After a spirited ten minute duel, the rabbit is at last mortally wounded, and falls slowly to the floor, though not before delivering a further eight minute soliloquy. This causes an immensely inebriated wizard in the back to emit a triumphant bellow, waving his drink in the air and slopping most of it down his shirt.

Over at the table, Alice turns to Radek, having been watching the play with a vague interest ever since the convenient departure of Gunhilda.
"You know, i was in a play once. I played the person who unexpectedly ran onstage and out the back door, in pursuit of a cunning jewelry thief. I believe i got quite a cheer... Anyway! -She puts on her incredibly serious expression, oblivious to the fact that three needlessly unsettling strangers have suddenly taken over the stage- I should probably tell you what that was all about.

Well, you see... The thing is. Yes. Er... the thing... is... -She coughs- I'm not supposed to tell you this, but Gunhilda and Hildebrand are... well, related. I always thought it was rather obvious, but there you go. Anyway, they haven't always got along. In fact, they've never got along. A short while back, there was a little... incident. Involving a dragon, several priceless antique books, and a lemming, if my memory serves me correctly. Hildebrand and Gunhilda had a... disagreement about it, you could say. You know the sort of disagreement where you end up drawing weapons? One of those. So, to make a long story short, they had a bit of a falling out. I was involved as well, naturally. I'm sure you can work the finer details out for yourself, but-"

At this point Alice is cut off by several gasps from the audience, although perhaps audience is the wrong word, it consisting principally of the aforementioned drunken wizard, four others in a similar state, and a comatose gnome.
The three strangers are holding the hunter/actor hostage, and the maiden has been tied up and tossed into a nearby barrel.
The barman has taken up a position by Alice and Radek's table, pointing his shotgun at the leader of the trio. Gunhilda is nowhere to be seen, although probably doing something useful.

The standoff continues, the whole room deathly silent, apart from the gnome, who is talking in his sleep about a singer called Mavis, whom he apparently left behind.
Bianca can't see much, being still imprisoned within the pocket, but senses a strange aura coming from somewhere...
This message was last edited on 11 Mar 2011.

Posted by Radek, 1:48am, 12 Mar, 2011

It's an unpleasant memory - he's not able to remember it entirely. But he remembers well the haze, the loud voices bellowing in excitement at something inconsequential, the din of the crowd having been subsumed into a chittering sound akin to a grating against the ears-

"What is it... Presque vu...?"

Muttering under his breath, Radek shakes his head and manages to free himself from the unsettling feeling that something like this has happened before. Turning away from the stage and it's uncannily life-like puppets, he nearly bumps into Alice; and her expression makes him even more pensive. Although... Drumming his fingers against the table, and wondering idly if it's even really wood or some cheaply-produced magical/synthetic knock-off, Radek voices his thoughts.

"I understand completely, Alice. Although I do want you to fill me in on the details later, I've traveled with you long enough to know that not everyone can deal with the way events are constantly in flux around you - and if there were personal tensions involved, that's a whole extra barrel of gunpowder. Just one question - would Gunhilda hold a grudge against you? Or more directly, does this mean we should find a less-ambience filled pub? Only-"

As the tension cracks like shattered glass and that terrible feeling from before splits into a full-blown headache, Radek grins lopsidedly, his fingers sinking into his coat pocket - quite glad he managed to lug it with him through the dry desert heat.

"Say, Belladora. Seems like you have a pretty good record at disrupting things like this. I don't know if we'll get a cheer - seems like it's a pretty tough crowd. Not that I particularly like puppet shows - and that flailing maiden really annoyed me. Would it've hurt them much to give her some semblance of personality?"

Talking jovially as if there is not an incredibly tense standoff going on in the room about them, Radek cricks his neck from side to side, wincing at the stiffness. "Let's take care of this and then find a nice place to sleep - i've never been in al-Nasr before, but there's gotta be some place we can rest for awhile and get large quantities of tiramisu sent up the room, right? Well, not that it matters - I'll follow you anywhere, you know!...

Hey, you. Creepy faceless sir. Unhand that puppet."

Despite trying to sound as cool as possible, the line does fall somewhat flat, and the drunken wizard giggles. Radek doesn't seem to care much, a sly grin on his face - until the faceless figure takes a rather large bite out of the puppet with a crunch of wood and bracing. The bartender's shotgun goes off, firing wild and sending the stage curtain falling over the figures, and the audience - such as it is - begins to build up to a moderate panic, not quite having reached the full thing.

Shaking his head, Radek turns back to face Alice and holds out his free hand, grinning apologetically. "Well, looks like we probably won't get to be heroes today - not that I'm quite sure what's happening. Want to make a break for it?" His fingers clasp hers as the din rises, the strange trio having fled backstage and the other wizard having woken up, sending sparks of magic that smell strangely of figs scattering around the room...
This message was last edited on 12 Mar 2011.

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